ele·​gi·​ac ˌe-lə-ˈjī-ək How to pronounce elegiac (audio)
 also  i-ˈlē-jē-ˌak
variants or less commonly elegiacal
: of, relating to, or consisting of two dactylic hexameter lines the second of which lacks the arsis in the third and sixth feet
: written in or consisting of elegiac couplets
: noted for having written poetry in such couplets
: of or relating to the period in Greece about the seventh century b.c. when poetry written in such couplets flourished
: of, relating to, or comprising elegy or an elegy
especially : expressing sorrow often for something now past
an elegiac lament for departed youth
elegiac noun
elegiacally adverb

Did you know?

Elegiac was borrowed into English in the 16th century from Late Latin elagiacus, which in turn derives from Greek elegeiakos. Elegeiakos traces back to the Greek word for "elegiac couplet," which was elegeion. It is no surprise, then, that the earliest meaning of elegiac referred to such poetic couplets. These days, of course, the word is also used to describe anything sorrowful or nostalgic. As you may have guessed, another descendant of elegeion in English is elegy, which in its oldest sense refers to a poem in elegiac couplets, and now can equally refer to a somewhat broader range of laments for something or someone that is now lost.

Examples of elegiac in a Sentence

the sight of an old ruined church or castle can be a pleasantly elegiac experience
Recent Examples on the Web While his early novels paid fealty to the expansive, twisty prose of Faulkner and the unsettling Southern gothic of O’Connor, his poetry and later novels moved toward the elegiac sentiments and literary precision of Welty. Clay Risen, New York Times, 25 Jan. 2024 But the tone is more somber, dream-like, almost elegiac than the filmmaker's earlier, lighter fare like My Neighbor Totoro, and the story incorporates certain elements from the director's own childhood, including losing his mother and evacuating to the countryside during the war. Ars Staff, Ars Technica, 25 Dec. 2023 In her previous book, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, an elegiac meditation on sea-level rise, Rush cautioned against our ill-preparedness for disaster. Emily Raboteau, The New York Review of Books, 1 Nov. 2020 But that was not the only reason that there was an elegiac theme to Monday night. John Koblin, New York Times, 16 Jan. 2024 Movies Review: ‘The Boy and the Heron’ is Hayao Miyazaki at his most beautifully elegiac Nov. 24, 2023 The two artists make for an interesting team. Tim Greiving, Los Angeles Times, 29 Nov. 2023 In the short prelude, light yet pungent pizzicato plucks — amid brooding low strings and an elegiac solo violin — movingly evoke Jesus’s mother’s tears without feeling too obvious. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 23 Nov. 2023 The poems are elegiac, and once again her followers may read this as personal elegy — which is only hinted at. Carol Muske-Dukes, Washington Post, 2 Sep. 2023 Gottlieb’s death at 92 in June of this year lends Turn Every Page an elegiac cast.—TA Watch on Amazon. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, 22 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'elegiac.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Late Latin elegiacus, from Greek elegeiakos, from elegeion

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of elegiac was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near elegiac

Cite this Entry

“Elegiac.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elegiac. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

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